How to overcome challenges of remote work. 

In recent years, the world of work has been turned upside down. As technology makes it more and more possible for people to work away from the office, growing numbers of professionals are taking this option. This shift to online work accelerated enormously in the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020-21 and is now fully mainstream.

Remote work gives team members a great deal of flexibility, which is valued ever-more highly by younger generations. Zoomers and Gen Z are also very comfortable using technology and are used to being fully connected 24/7. With their lessening attachment to place, this all adds up to mean that virtual working is preferable for younger professionals.

With happier professionals comes increased productivity and better workplaces for the business. With less need for costly office rent and its associated overheads such as utility bills there is also a pure financial incentive to make savings on the bottom line.

Finally, new opportunities open as new markets suddenly become available. You can think outside the box of your local situation and potentially hire independent international contractors through a professional. As long as they have good internet access, it doesn’t matter where your team members are.

However, there are some challenges. Working remotely can affect the health, both mental and physical, of team members and is not always the most productive option for employers. Increased flexibility comes at a price, as it also carries more personal responsibility. Employers who are used to a high degree of control over professionals will have to change their ways to successfully work remotely.

Like most things in life, though, these problems can be overcome with a bit of planning and putting the correct systems in place. With enough foresight, some of the challenges can not only be limited but even turned into positive points. If a company is open to change, shifting towards remote working is easy to do.

These challenges are also mainly limited to day-to-day operations. In wider considerations, there are far more benefits. Team members that value working remotely will work hard to protect that status and are less likely to leave. This means that long-term productivity will be high and turnover low. Furthermore, your employer brand is likely to strengthen significantly.

These are split into two main camps, challenges for employers and for team members. The challenges for employers tend to revolve around maintaining or even improving a high level of production. Team members, on the other hand, have to be careful to avoid physical and mental issues developing, as well as distractions.

For employers

Supervision – team members are hard to monitor over huge distances of both time and space. In an office environment it’s easy to see who is working hard and who is not, but online systems are much harder to keep control of. If you want to implement remote working, then you have to be prepared to have faith in your professionals. This will pay off in the long run though, as more independent professionals are more productive.

Some companies have taken to using software to keep tabs on their professionals, but this is very much a double-edged sword. Few people enjoy being monitored like this and it creates a Big Brother-style work environment that is likely to lead to high turnover and low productivity.

Tech failures are part and parcel of remote working, so you need to plan for them happening. Sometimes it is a problem of software, such as when servers go down worldwide or regionally for certain platforms, whereas in other cases it may be the hardware itself that fails.

The first thing to do is build resilience into your work systems, so that you can accommodate hiccups in productivity while technology is down. If you have remote professionals distributed around the world, this can help you avoid regional problems as you can focus attention on a region that is not suffering the same problems.

In terms of tech solutions to tech problems, you should consider having backup systems so that if one platform fails you can switch across to another. Providing hardware to team members will avoid some of the problems in terms of hardware, as well as saving them money and keeping them happy.

Coordination can be difficult when your workforce is split over several different places. Unlike a physical office, you can’t always be sure when everyone is ready for a meeting or is able to talk. This means you have to accept that you won’t always get an immediate reply from people, and you will need to plan which things are most urgent and which things can wait for attention.

Not only are team members split across several separate places but possibly also different time zones. This means thinking carefully about scheduling meetings so that everyone can attend easily. Asynchronous working, though, can be turned into a great advantage as it enables you to program work in different zones at different times to deliver round-the-clock service.

Whereas office working allows you to keep records securely, confidentiality is harder to keep under control when everyone is working remotely. If you deal with sensitive data, it will be necessary to plan carefully how you are going to deal with it and who will have responsibility for ensuring that it remains protected. Various platforms and programs allow you to control access to private data.

For team members

Team members, for their part, can suffer physical and mental issues when working remotely.

Seating in office spaces usually conforms to local laws, regulations and/or norms for comfort and protection for the professionals. There are also regular breaks in order to rest the eyes and give them a break from screen glare. Team members should be not just advised but actively encouraged to take breaks and check their seating arrangements. Offering discounts or providing seating is another possibility.

For some professionals, isolation is a major problem when working remotely. While some team members are much happier working alone and away from the spotlight, others need to be socially connected to their fellow professionals. For this reason, scheduling virtual meetings for social engagement is a great way to help everyone stay connected and build morale.

Balancing work commitments and the demands of social life can be a difficult tightrope to walk. The flexibility that remote working gives to professionals can lead some people to stop complying with their responsibilities. One simple trick that works well is to disconnect everything and focus entirely on work for blocks of time. This helps you divide the day into work time and social time.

When your office is also your home, there are a great many distractions to deal with. All the things that are normally out of sight and out mind is suddenly front and centre. If there are other people in the house, they may be talking to you about other matters and it can be hard to concentrate.

It’s a good idea to make a separate space to differentiate between the area you work in and the area where you don’t work. This also helps with the related problem of sticking to schedules. Seemingly small things like simply changing clothes or closing the door to your home office can help remind professionals that they’re in work mode, as well as stop other people in the house from distracting them.

By Victor Anaya, CEO and co-founder of Serviap Global, which provides rapid and compliant international recruitment and hiring services around the world. Serviap Global started out in Mexico 12 years ago, before expanding in Latin America and later beyond the region. Today Serviap Global assists companies with overseas hiring in over 100 countries worldwide.

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